To get the "perfect home," you may need to buy it and then remodel.
Q: We’re looking at a few options for a new home, but all will likely include some type of renovation. Any tips to help us navigate the hurdles we will face?
A: Buyers can finally exhale as the Seattle housing market begins to slow down a bit. According to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, there has been a 75 percent increase in available Seattle homes for sale since last summer.
While prices may not be lowering anytime soon, this “lull” in the market offers buyers a bit more wiggle room in which to find their perfect home. Still, buyers will need to look past the obvious and imagine the potential of a home after remodeling.
To guide your home search, we’ve come up with a few things to consider if you’re buying a home with remodeling in mind.
For major remodeling work, you likely won’t find a contractor who is available to hop on your project as soon as you close. After all, we’re winding down from one of the hottest homebuying years in the history of Seattle.
Having the right expectations about timing is going to help you find a quality contractor in which to partner in your home endeavors — someone who does good work, with the right permits and skilled carpenters. Eager new homeowners with no flexibility in their timing are going to find that their options are slim and they may not be able to get on the construction calendar of their top pick.
Starting the conversation with your preferred contractor before buying is always a good idea. When you’re fairly certain you’ve found the right home, that’s the time to get your contractor on the phone or on-site to determine what’s possible.
Include potential remodeling work when creating your budget and maximum home price. It’s a great idea to do some online research about remodeling prices, or call up a few local contractors to discover some average numbers you can take with you. How much are kitchen and bathroom remodels averaging? What about additions? Knowing these common remodeling figures will help you determine what you’re willing to spend.
Whatever figures you get on the phone or online, add a cushion. Construction-material costs and subcontractor prices are also rising and will likely be even higher by the time your remodel rolls around.
Location and layout
There are many things you can change about a home — almost everything — but you can’t change the location. If you’re dead set on a certain neighborhood, you’ll most likely be looking for a home to remodel. Ask friends in the neighborhood about their experiences with remodeling. Homes of a similar decade or style are likely to have the same construction considerations.
If you want to spend less while still remodeling, look for a layout you like. Changing the finishes, such as appliances, flooring and paint, can transform a room dramatically. Changing the layout (taking down a wall for an open-concept kitchen, for example) is going to come with higher costs since you may be changing the structural integrity of the home.
If the market allows, and you are not at risk of losing your desired home to another buyer, inspection contingencies are recommended. This will allow you to cancel or renegotiate a sale if the inspection finds major issues, such as a cracked foundation, dry rot or mold.
If you are at risk of losing a home and need to move forward without a property inspection, add even more cushion to your budget. In older homes, there’s almost always something that will need attention during construction. Expect that any home built before the 1980s will likely have lead-based paint or asbestos, maybe both, and will require proper remediation.
Finally, prioritize your remodeling “wish list.” As any agent will tell you, your idea of “perfect” will probably need to be re-evaluated. A home may not be perfect from the outset, but with a little imagination and the right team of people, you can view a home through the lens of professionals.
There are endless possibilities, so sit down and really think about your must-haves versus your wants. Create a numbered list that you can hand to your contractor. Your contractor, the seller and your wallet will thank you for the realistic approach to buying a home with remodeling in mind.
Jason Legat is the founder and president of Model Remodel and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s more than 3,000 members, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.